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Satan's Empire's Sandy McRitchie: "Bands like us do not need to re-invent or formulate the music, it wouldn’t be Metal. Metal is passion, heartache, power and strength of union and that is what bonds us and draws the younger generations to it"

Interview with Sandy McRitchie from Satan's Empire
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 31 March 2020, 12:09 PM

Yes, now there is a regret that there wasn't a chance to listen to the debut album of Satan's Empire, clearly a miss but a lesson learned is a lesson to be kept. One of the cases of bands of the early British Metal era, NWOBHM, that should have been provided with a better attention. After coming up with a deal with the local Dissonance Productions, Satan's Empire returns with a sophomore record, "Hail The Empire", a strong title for a tough album. Steinmetal had a chance to talk to veteran guitarist Sandy McRitchie, about the new release, covid-19, musical progress, and more…

Greetings Sandy, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir, especially with the Covid-19 virus spreading all around?

I have been lucky that my employer has allowed me to work from home, so there is no financial impact, however, being part of a team, you miss the banter and the camaraderie. Being a vulnerable adult I have been instructed to self-isolate for 12 weeks, so I am just making sure I have access to food sources locally.

It appears, according to the press, that the UK is already realizing the magnitude of the infection of the virus. How has the virus spread been influencing what is happening in the local Metal scene, in particular when nobody is leaving their homes, maybe for the basics?

It has been absolutely destructive. Bands who had tours arranged, have had to cancel and have lost bucket loads of money because of this. Money from ticket sales and merchandise is now zero and you cannot even rehearse together now.

So, with this sort of lockdown, what are the options to be done in order to promote something, even working on new material? What are the possibilities nowadays? Have you been trying to overcome the situation with various solutions or just wait this time period off?

All you can do is support your own social media outlets and maintain some sort of profile. We are lucky that “Hail The Empire” has just been released, so we are able to post album reviews every few days. This keeps our people up to date and so far every review has been very positive! Coincidentally, we already have 5 songs for the 3rd album but can only pass demos around for others in the band to hear.

Let’s get down to what we are really here for shall we? Alright then, you just released your sophomore album, “Hail The Empire”, and recently signed to the local Dissonance Productions. How do you find this new relationship with Dissonance? I guess that it was the right thing to do in order to grow in influence, am I correct? Do you feel that there is more attention to the band than previously?

Dissonance have been very positive in their support with additions to Monthly newsletters, reviews and passing on Interviews like yourself, for in depth details of the band. They are a Heavy Metal orientated label and have the proper Metal network for promotion, as well as worldwide distribution with PlasticHead. I think because of the size of their network, more attention will be captured regarding "Hail The Empire" and also for "Rising" as a follow on.

It is true that “Hail The Empire” was just out the window, yet did you have a chance to play some of the songs live, of course prior to the pandemic? What were the initial reactions?

The creative process of writing "Hail The Empire" began nearly two years ago and yes we did manage to play a few of them live to our people. Reactions were very positive and this helped promote the pre-sales when it was released.

Then the question comes back to you, after listening to the end product, what is your appreciation of this album in general? Any certain things that you would have done differently given the chance to correct?

I am very self-critical of my performance and I feel I can always do better, but you just have to go with the performance on the day. Yes, there are bits I would like to do again but that will be for the 10th Anniversary box set!!

Before we delve into the musical essence of “Hail The Empire”, let’s talk about the lyricism and philosophical approach. It appears, at least to me, that there is somewhat a connection between occult and the terminology concerning imperialism, looking closely on the Roman empire. Perhaps I am way far off, and it is coincidental, but maybe you can fill in the gap on this one?

You have to remember, we began 40 years ago and at that time, many metal bands looked to the supernatural for band names and themes, so we followed the mainstream and created our own fantasy conflicts at that time. "Hail The Empire" sort of followed the general theme of fantasy and conflict but we also touched on other areas e.g. Radio airplay through Storm and depression through Black, to name two.

The title song "Hail the Empire" is definitely related to historical Roman scenarios but comes off the back of a gimmick we use when communicating with our people. We always signed off with “Hail!” and this lead onto the Roman connection through time.

How do you find yourself personally connected to the attitude of the songs? What is the connection between the lyrics of some of the songs to our reality, prior or current situation, in your perspective?

Myself and Derek always sit down and run through new lyrics but there is not a definitive process to link any of the lyrics to modern events, if there seem to be some, then it is purely coincidental!

Truth be told, I didn’t have the chance to listen to your debut album, “Rising”, in order to get a reference, yet I have the feeling the Satan’s Empire is a band that is traditional in its musical approach rather than innovative. While NWOBHM is your core, how do you find the band’s musical progress on “Hail The Empire”?

Ah, you have missed out then! The songs on "Rising" were written 40 years ago but were tailored and re-arranged for modern metal tastes. We are an organic band and believe in a performance attitude when recording. It helps to emphasize the music when you see us perform live. "Hail The Empire" was written over the last couple of years and the songs were built and created purely from rehearsals with the band. people say that "Hail The Empire" is different but still retains the flavor of an Empire album.

In overall, bands of your era, those who shaped Metal music, coming back, don’t really need to reinvent themselves right, in particular where there is still some sort of a revival of traditional Metal?

The thing about Metal music is that it is ageless. Bands like us do not need to re-invent or formulate the music, it wouldn’t be Metal. Metal is passion, heartache, power and strength of union and that is what bonds us and draws the younger generations to it

In comparison to your debut, which attributes in the music were provided with better attention, elements that perhaps weren’t taken in consideration in your debut?

I think, listening to the album, there are more commercial hooks within the songs now and I think the backing vocals that we recorded and enjoyed recording, help to convey a camaraderie in singing them.

When it comes to the album’s songwriting process, would you say that the band came up with a different approach or methods to come up with songs? Were there lessons learned from the debut album?

Our creative process has always been the same. As stated before, we are an organic band, someone puts in an idea, we jam along, get a chorus, then a middle 8, solo and so on. It was the same 40 years ago as it is today, it’s just a different blend of chemistry this time around.

I found “Hail Of The Empire”, in terms of diving into the songs, to have two angles, one is major and one is minor. I will start with the major, a song such as “Secrets”, sent me back in time to the heydays of NWOBHM with a few little tweaks, recollections of past and present British Metal legends. What is your input on this tune? It is rather the sum up of one of Britain’s finest Metal hours the way I see it

Thank you! We knew this one would be well liked because when we wrote it and finalized it, it blew us away! Feedback from everyone has been supreme on this one, especially live. I think the technique of using lower chord inversions, really heavy’s up the verse and sub consciously may be a nod to our influences from the earlier Heavy Metal bands like Sabbath and Priest.

The minor angle is “Black”, now this one is a fiery beast, uncanny in comparison to the others, I perceived it as sort of an experiment, which in the end, did well. Producing a modern drive, almost Alternative in nature, then shifting to a rather atmospheric chorus. What was that all about? Is it Satan’s Empire breaking boundaries? Who sings in the chorus that sounds like Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith?

Strangely enough because it is played half an octave lower than any of the other songs, we were trying to get a sort of industrial, metallic, robotized feel to it. Almost a Rammstein anthem Wayne created the main verse using his 5 string bass and we deliberately went for a catchy chorus to compliment the dark and light of the song It’s Paul Lewis, our guitarist, who does the backing vocals. Thanks! :)

With the Covid-19 still looming, and I guess it will take a while for everything to get back to normal, what do you think are the main challenges of Satan’s Empire? Let’s look forward in time, and also on the Metal market that is far more into the modern stuff than relishing on the old school

I think not being able to rehearse and perform. We are an organic band and need to play. We will get through this and rise again to do what we do best - perform live!

Now see, I disagree, I think there is too much fragmentation and hybridization of Metal nowadays and the young generation are blinkered to what is around. As an example, true story, we were on a five band bill that had a Doom Metal band, A Black Metal band and a Death Metal band, all kind of similar but different in their performances. When we came on, it was like they let the masses out. hundreds, and I mean hundreds of people came running through from the next door annex, after hearing our opening song "Dragonslayer". The crowd went absolutely ballistic after every song. The cheers were so loud, it was deafening. It was like they had never heard classic Heavy Metal before played the way we played it. The hairs on my arms and neck were tingling and the band had broad smiles all around - it was a very special night!

We have been witness to the slow fading of the Metal gods, mostly due to the age. Even though their music is immortal, there is logical search for a new set of gods to be role models. In your opinion, are there Metal gods beyond those who are currently considered as such? Is this term too old fashioned?

I think the term Metal Gods was given to those bands who are successful musically and financially and have a certain period of longevity e.g. Zeppelin, Sabbath, Priest and Metallica to name a few. Each band is a Metal God in the eyes of each of their followers and it is only the commercial success that the media give the title to the band in flavor at that time. You can look at bands like Nightwish, who have a monumental following worldwide and they may be termed Metal Gods, but it is all subjective really. As long as humans want to play and perform to each other, there will always be Metal Gods for us to praise!

On a positive note, Sandy, I wish to thank you for this interview, and I am glad that I was introduced to the band and the new record. All the best and keep safe!

Likewise Lior, and I hope to meet up with you some day after this at a Satan’s Empire gig, where you can hear us for yourself!! Hail!


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